Born to Life
July 8, 1929
June 13, 1946
Born to Eternal Life
November 8, 2021
Mt. Olivet Cemetery
On July 8, 1929 a baby girl was born to Joseph and Reinaldis Engel who lived on the northwest side of Milwaukee. She was baptized Joan Marie at Holy Redeemer Church in Milwaukee. Joan Marie was the second child in the family of six children and grew up in a loving family where they all learned how to work and help each other.
All the children attended Holy Redeemer Catholic School and were taught by the School Sisters of St. Francis. Early on in her school years Joan knew she wanted to be a Sister because the Sisters were all so happy! She later wrote: “Two Sisters who radiated happiness in a special way were my sixth grade teacher, Sister Jolenta, who made geography and history come alive for me and my eighth grade teacher who had been in China, Sister Chrysantha Klass. She told us all about China and how some Sisters were in the concentration camp.”
After eighth grade, at age thirteen, she entered St. Joseph Convent. She wrote: “As an aspirant, I grew up having the best care physically and mentally. I loved the convent. We had regular high school classes and for sports we had basketball and volleyball teams plus square dancing.”
Sister Viola, her postulant mistress, made the greatest impact on her early religious life. On June 13, 1946 Joan Marie was received into the School Sisters of St. Francis and received the name, Sister Leone. During the Novitiate her spiritual life was nurtured and she began her college education to become a teacher. She said she received much help.
Sister Leone became an excellent teacher. She enjoyed teaching and working with children. Most of her teaching years were spent in Wisconsin.
In 1968 when changes in religious life began to occur after Vatican II, Sister Leone chose to return to her baptismal name Joan Marie.
Many years of her active teaching ministry she served as a Cooperating Teacher for Alverno College students. One of her former students wrote: “I was fortunate to have you as a cooperating teacher in your second grade classroom at Queen of Peace. I enjoyed your interaction with your students and I appreciated your concern for their academic and faith development as well as your willingness to spend time with me.”
Several times Sister Joan Marie became overwhelmed with life and needed professional help to care for her mental health. During those times journaling and her artistic bent gave her great help.
Leaving classroom teaching in 1981, she joined the one-on-one LRN tutoring program at Alverno for nearly 20 years. During those years Sister Joan Marie lived at Ancilla Domini Convent and spent much time developing her spiritual life with a prayer partner. She also attended retreats, and days of reflection at Sienna Center.
In 1999 Sister Joan Marie retired to Sacred Heart Convent. She continued to tutor when there was a need. She also did many things for the Sisters. She would read to them, help them do artistic things, and at times share her poetry.
In 2004, as the poem on the cover of her booklet says, the Good Shepherd led her to new streams and that was Campbellsport. At Campbellsport she did a great deal of her poetry writing and did extensive journaling, using all her talents.
Campbellsport closed in 2014 and Sister Joan Marie returned to Sacred Heart in Milwaukee. Her physical health diminished quickly as severe arthritis took over her body and she soon needed total nursing care. She always retained the ability to scoot around, peddling her wheelchair!
In 2021 Sister Joan Marie celebrated her 75th Jubilee as a School Sister of St. Francis. That day was as happy as the day she entered the Convent – she could still say: “I love the Convent.”
A few months after her Jubilee celebration the Good Shepherd visited her and took her home to “dwell in His house forever.”